Quasars are the brightest objects in our universe, and aside from being made up of supermassive black holes, they are known to emit radio waves whose wavelength far exceeds that of visible light. And they’ve been around since the earliest years of our universe, as most recently evidenced by a quasar which astronomers behind two new studies believe has been generating the brightest, most intense emissions in the history of the early universe.
According to Space.com, the quasar named PSO J352.4034-15.3373 is located about 13 billion light-years away from Earth and offers an interesting glimpse of how the universe was shortly after the Big Bang, while potentially helping astronomers have a better idea of what happened when the very first stars began to form. Given its distance from our planet, that means the quasar has been generating radio emissions for about 13 billion years before the emissions reached Earth.
“There is a dearth of known strong radio emitters from the universe’s youth, and this is the brightest radio quasar at that epoch by an order of magnitude,” read a statement from Carnegie Institution of Science researcher Eduardo Banados, who led one of the studies behind the new discovery.
After Banados and his colleagues discovered PSO J352.4034-15.3373, their findings were backed up by a separate discovery by Emmanuel Momijan of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, which suggested that there was a “jet of super-fast plasma” being emitted by the quasar. Space.com noted that the plasma is emitted almost as fast as the speed of light and could be the key to understanding how stars and galaxies formed in the infancy of our universe.
— SPACE.com (@SPACEdotcom) July 9, 2018
“The jet from this quasar could serve as an important calibration tool to help future projects penetrate the dark ages and perhaps reveal how the earliest galaxies came into being,” Banados observed.
The new quasar discovery comes months after Banados and other Carnegie Observatories researchers made another astonishing find. According to Digital Trends, the researchers were able to discover the most distant supermassive black hole ever recorded, spotting it in a quasar that might have originated about 690 million years after the Big Bang gave birth to the universe some 13.8 billion years ago. The black hole was estimated to be approximately 800 million times more massive than the sun, easily qualifying it in the “supermassive” category as one of our universe’s largest objects.
The findings were documented the newly discovered quasar in two studies published Monday in the Astrophysical Journal.